Thursday, October 19, 2017

Games Shmitty Plays - (Let's get together and tell a story)

I am a lucky man.

I can say that for a lot of different reasons, but for the purpose of this post I am referring to my wife.  Aside from just supporting my gaming hobby and never complaining about the costs of little plastic spaceships, she has become an avid gamer herself.  Her tastes lean strongly towards board games, but she is happy to give most anything a try.

As a couple we started with some of the typical gateway board games like Catan, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride.  We found friends and family that we could get together with and play.  We also figured out early on that 1v1 games weren't the best idea for marital bliss as we are both pretty competitive.  Eventually though we moved in to deeper games and both found a real love for anything by Vlaada Chvatil (Dungeon Lords and Galaxy Trucker are just so good.)

The release of Pandemic was followed by several others cooperative games and the whole co-op genre really started to take off.  We tried a few of them, with the drunken gnomes of Red November becoming a household favorite.  This led us into giving the Lord of the Rings LCG a try.  We're both fans of the novels and movies, so that checked some boxes right at the start.  The co-op game play was fun and having your own hand of cards helps with preventing an alpha-player from just trying to do everything.  We liked the game and enjoyed playing the various quests, but the game really clicked for us when we FFG released the Saga expansions.  These were different in 2 ways: they followed the stories from the books, but more importantly the results of your games carried forward to the future giving you various boons and burdens as you played.  This connection between our game sessions made the game so much more rewarding for my wife and I to play.  We would get in the habit of playing in the evening after the kid was in bed and it made it felt like we were just picking up where we left off.  The campaign linked our sessions together and made the whole experience more fun.

So, we'd discovered that we really enjoyed working together to complete a campaign.  This caused us to look around for other games that could provide a similar experience.  It turned out that although the co-op campaign experience was certainly a niche corner of the gaming world it was one that was growing.  

Our first step was to actually revisit a game that we had tried, but hadn't really stuck with: Kingdom Death: Monster.  A gaming buddy had backed the first Kickstarter for this game and we'd tried it but it hadn't clicked for my wife.  The game is frankly brutal, both in terms of difficulty and the world it is set in.  It is a self described nightmare world.  You take a group of survivors and build a settlement up by hunting the various monsters that stalk the landscape.  Our mistake the first time around was getting too attached to the survivors themselves.  Life is cheap in the game and a favorite character won't last long.  So, this time we approached it as if we were playing the settlement together and the survivors themselves were just a resource we usedThis made a huge difference and we really enjoyed the game.  Enough so that after introducing it to some other friends we bought heavily in to the 1.5 version Kickstarter.  I am expecting our copy of the game to ship soon.

From there we looked for other options and picked up Mechs vs Minions and loved the mix of gameplay and high production values we found there.  We also bought into the Gloomhaven reprint Kickstarter and are eagerly awaiting that shipment as well.  

My wife also bought me as a Christmas gift last year some additional X-Wing ships and a full print of the fan made Heroes of the Aturi Cluster expansion.  This is brilliant.  It takes the excellent X-Wing minis game and makes an engaging cooperative campaign experience.  We've played through campaigns with different friends and it helped me remember just how much I used to enjoy X-Wing.  I'd love for something similar to exist for Armada, but I just don't see how it could work.

We also recently picked up Mice & Mystics with an eye towards its kid-friendliness.  So far, it is a hit with the 3 year old and he frequently asks to play the "mice game".

We have found that co-operative campaigns are our favorite way to spend our gaming time.  The mix of game play, rpg-elements, and community makes them really click for us.  They aren't without their faults though.  The things that make them work so well can also be a detriment.  You need regular time to play.  This is easy when it is just my wife and I playing Lord of the Rings, but our 4 player Mechs vs Minions campaign took much longer than expected as we kept missing weekly sessions when there were sick kids or folks out of town.  The rewards for playing campaigns are high, but they require more of a time commitment than most.

One of my plans is to use this space to document some of our campaigns and the stories that we tell in them as well as to review some of our favorite games. 


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